Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry) Elections

WitnessLA Endorsements for November 2, 2010



GOVERNOR: Jerry Brown (Duh.)
LT. GOVERNOR: Gavin Newsom
TREASURER: Bill Lockyer
ATTORNEY GENERAL: Kamala Harris, but, um, It’s complicated. (See below)

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION: . Larry Aceves (with lots of irritation that it’s not reformer, Gloria Romero, but we live with what we’ve got.)

U.S. SENATOR: Barbara Boxer


PROP 20: NO (or YES: See Long Form below.)




Look, by this time you’ve likely made up your mind on whether we ought to legalize, regulate and tax pot—or not. I think we should. Couldn’t be clearer on the matter. It’s time. Way past time, actually.

If you believe the reefer madness nonsense that is being lobbed your way by those against 19, that is assuredly your right. We can respectfully disagree.

In 2008, California police made 60,000 marijuana possession arrests (the majority of them young men of color, BTW). That is completely nuts as a use of our law enforcement resources, just for starters.

(And the idea that the Mexican drug cartels favor Prop. 19 is laughable—as Héctor Camín and Jorge Castañeda explain succinctly in this WaPo op ed.)

However, one remaining sticking point for some people is the objection that the LA Times raised regarding the way that the proposition is written. It allows cities and counties to pass their own regulatory structures on top of the state law, should they so desire, which the Times says will lead to legal chaos. But that’s also the case with medical marijuana and somehow the empire hasn’t crumbled.
But don’t believe me. Believe UCI law school dean, Erwin Chemerinsky who is, among other things, an expert on the way cities and municipalities function. Chemerinsky thinks Prop. 19 will do just fine. As does attorney and Ohio State University law professor Doug Berman, of Sentencing, Law & Policy, who is smarter on the ins and outs of sentencing policy and the like than just about anyone in the country. Berman’s a big Prop 19 proponent.

For me, their analysis of the legal impact of the bill’s language easily trumps that of the LA Times editorial board (or that of the San Francisco Chron, for that matter).

They are merely two of the long list of high profile lawyers and law school profs who urge passage of the measure.

(And, for the record, no, I don’t smoke, or otherwise partake of the stuff. A few decades ago, yes. Now, no. It’s not my thing.)

PROP 20: NO (or YES)

Prop 20 is something of a wobbler. I’m voting NO, but don’t think a YES vote would be the worst thing in the world.

Briefly, it would require Congressional districts to be drawn by a citizens’ committee, instead of the State Legislature. We already have such a group set up to handle redistricting for the State Legislature, but it hasn’t met yet. Why don’t we see how they do first, before we start handing the keys to all the rooms in the house to this same committee.

Basically, the idea of removing the power to gerrymander districts from the politicians who stand to benefit is a good idea. But, my vote is to take it a step at a time.

FYI: Nearly all the state’s newspapers are in favor of Prop 20, all the state’s progressive groups are against it. Like I said, a wobbler. Make your own best call. There’s a case to be made for both sides.


This initiative would establish a new source of funding for state parks, the budgets of which have been shredded by Governor Schwarzenegger. Everyone registering a vehicle in California (except for commercial vehicles, trailers and trailer coaches) would pay an $18 annual surcharge to fund the parks. In exchange, those with California licenses would get free vehicle admission, parking and day use at the parks.

Those opposed say that we shouldn’t be raising and walling off funds for the parks when there are so many other worthy causes that are getting their budgets cut, and that somehow they will be hurt if this proposition passes. In the abstract, they have a point: as a general rule, cordoning off funds for special issues is a bad idea, especially when we have so many important social issues underfunded, or not funded at all. It complicates budget writing and all that jazz.

Okay fine. But every once in a while the general rule ain’t right. Since those charged with protecting the state parks abrogated what ought to be a sacred duty, the people need to step in.

Here’s the truth: if we fail to protect our state parks—which is what is presently beginning to happen–the consequences of our shortsightedness will last forever. Once that toothpaste is out of the tube, there’s no going back.

Like our National Park system, the California State Parks are treasures held in trust for every resident of the state, regardless of income or social status. The parks belong to all of us and they have to be protected. Period.

Prop 21 provides a surefire and painless way to do it.

A YES vote on Prop 21 is not anything resembling a close call.


I agree with the LA Times, and Sheila Kuehl on this issue (among other endorsers who oppose 22).

The cities and counties don’t want certain designated funds raided by the state when the state has budget problems. We get that. And we don’t want it either, under most circumstances.

But here’s the deal: the funds are loans, not grabs, and must be repaid in full within three years. We are in an imperfect budget climate (to radically understate matters). Right now flexibility is of high value.


Texas oil companies Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp. have put a tankers full of money into this ballot measure—nearly 75 percent of its total budget— in an effort to hold off implementation of California’s landmark AB 32, California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions reduction law. It would suspend the law requiring the reduction of greenhouse gas, and suspend a reduction plan that includes increased use of renewable energy.

If voters approve the proposition, the emissions law would not take effect until unemployment falls to 5.5 percent and stays there for a year. That has happened just three times during the past three decades, according to California Employment Development Department statistics.

Those same oil companies—which, according to the EPA, have lousy records as major polluters— want to portray AB 32, as a job killer. Don’t believe them. They do not have your and my best interests at heart, nor do they give a damn about the out-of-work residents of this state.


As a condition of his signature on the budget last year, Governor Schwarzenegger insisted on a giveaway to certain kinds of corporations on their tax computations. The deal was as follows: Operating losses could be used to reduce taxes for previous years. Multi-state businesses can choose the tax formula that allows them to pay less tax and take the greatest losses and change it every year. This proposition repeals those corporate tax changes.

The LA Times and some of the state’s other papers say we should vote no, that it’s wrong for voters to tinker with budget deals and that repealing the tax deals could cost jobs.

I think they’re wrong.

Look, I too dithered for a while on Prop 24 until I examined the matter more closely.

Here’s how former US Secretary of labor Robert Reich puts it:

“[Prop 24] ends three extraordinarily bad corporate tax giveaways that will not save or create a single job. As a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, I can state emphatically that these narrow tax breaks for large corporations do not stimulate job creation, nor do they figure significantly in corporate decisions to locate in or relocate out of the state. Education, work force and other factors are much more important.”

Yeah. What he said.


If passed, this would change the current two-thirds super-majority required to pass a state budget, to a simple majority vote of the legislature—so maybe our squabbling state lawmakers might manage to actually get a freaking budget passed once in a while.

By the way, 47 out of the 50 states allow passage of their budgets on a nice, sensible majority vote, instead of California’s stupid system that means that a quarrelsome minority can hold up a budget indefinitely—hence our current quagmire.

(Oh, and, just to be clear, this would not change the two-thirds super-majority required to increase taxes.)


This snake-y little piece of dog poop is being funded by Philip Morris, ExxonMobil, the aforementioned Texas oil companies and other fun groups who do not have our best interests at heart. They want to require a two-thirds before polluters are charged environmental clean up fees, or tobacco, alcohol and other corporations are charged for the cost of treating the harm their products cause to public health—which means those fees and regulations will happen, like never. The corporations will go merrily along doing what they like without fear of reprisal. And the state will be $1 billion poorer, for it, to boot.

Prop 26 is, in many ways, even worse than Prop 23, but it has gotten a lot less publicity. Kick this junky measure to the curb, ASAP.


Prop 27 would eliminate the 14 member redistricting commission that was just recently established by a previous ballot proposition (but has yet to actually meet) and give the power to establish Assembly, Senate and Congressional districts back to the state legislators, who—along with their Congressional colleagues—are the exact people who stand to benefit by having that power. (Think fox/hen house.)

The argument for abolishing the citizens commission is that they are not elected thus beholden to nobody. Yeah, yeah, okay. But the state legislators, who have a vested interest in how the districts are drawn, act like they’re beholden to no one and what we have is a state full of gerrymandered districts.

California voters wanted to try out this new method. Let’s do it. If we find we don’t like it, then we can get rid of it after we’ve test driven the thing, not before.

By the way, for a positively kick-ass rundown on the concept of Gerrymandering, along with a description of the genesis of this and Prop. 20, read this series of LA Weekly articles by Annenberg’s Hillel Aron.



I assume that I don’t need to give another pitch for Brown, or against Whitman or Fiorina.

If you’re leaning in the direction of the two mean mendacious grrllls who hoped to buy themselves an election or two, I’m likely not going to talk you out of it.

So, EGB Jr. as the once and future governor! (Wooo-hoo!)

And Boxer back to the Senate.


Gavin Newsom is a talented politician who likely has a long political future ahead of him. Lt. Gov is a good place for him to rev his engines and for us to see what he can do with what is, in essence, a do-nothing job.

Plus, if someone had to step up into the governorship, he’s the better choice.


Both John Chaing and Debra Bowen are smart public servants who showed some serious huevos at times when such things were called for. Chaing was positively heroic as he stood up to the governor when Schwarzenegger was wrongly using state employees’ salaries as a bargaining chip to try to whip the state legislature in line (which didn’t work anyway). Bowen, if you remember, refused to let questionable electronic voting machines be used in California, despite humongous levels of pressure to do so.

Bill Lockyer is another capable guy who has done a fine job (for the most part) as Treasurer during trying times. No reason to change horses right now. We’ve got enough on our collective plates. (Plus his Orange County challenger, Mimi Walters, seems never to have met a conflict of interest that she couldn’t wholeheartedly embrace.)


Neither Larry Aceves nor Tom Torlakson are reformers. They are both biz as usual candidates, which is maddening.

Gloria Romero was the reformer and was widely expected to be in the runoff with Torlakson, the teachers’ unions’ guy. Then the LA Times had some kind of psychotic break right before the June primary and endorsed Larry Aceves, a very nice retired administrator whom nobody had heard of. Most voters didn’t know the difference, and so Aceves won, with union dude Torlakson, coming in second, with Romero the one true in the trenches, smart as a whip, game changer, aced out.

So here we are. Of the two, Aceves is the better choice. Torlakson is anti-charter, anti Race to the top, anti-reform (unless it only involves moving a few of the deck chairs around) anti-anything but what the teachers’ unions want. (And, gee, that’s worked out so well for us these past years.)

Whereas soft spoken Aceves seems to have a more creative outlook—and doesn’t seem altogether anti-reform. Neither is what we really need in California right now. But maybe Aceves will surprise us.


As for insurance commissioner, Dave Jones has been active in health care reform issues for some time now, where his opponent, Mike Villines, is a newcomer.

Outside of the governor, the insurance commissioner may have a bigger impact on the lives of Californians than any other elected official.

Villines, like Jones is a termed out state legislator. Villines appears, quite honestly, to be a very honorable guy as well. But he’s against Federal health reform, which is a problem.

Both men have show an ability to be independent, but Jones has the stronger track record for this particular job.

Which brings us to…..


Both Cooley and Harris have considerable strengths and, unlike a lot of my progressive friends, I actually think Steve Cooley would do fine as AG.

He stood up to the 3-strikes fanatics by using the law appropriately to put the really bad guys away, instead of merely striking people out for nonviolent third offenses—just because the law allowed it. He’s been good on other issues, that are less high profile. Plus, I’ve had a bunch of long conversations with Cooley about the challenges of prisoner reentry and other topics, and happen to simply like the guy.

But he has allowed his office to take stands on certain issues–like the Bruce Lisker case, for example—that are simply unsupportable. Plus, his willingness to uncritically co-sign on every idiotic thing that his new BFF Carmen Trutanich proposes, is a big, big problem.

Meanwhile, Kamala Harris is every bit has capable as Cooley is, and will chase after fraudsters and lawbreakers with equal vigor and expertise.

But Harris, unlike Cooley, is of a new breed that I think we need in our prison benighted state. One of her main campaign planks is to address the state’s ghastly recidivism rate.

While Cooley has most of the law enforcement endorsements, a long list of high profile cops who have worked with Harris—like SFPD Chief, and former LAPD Assistant Chief, George Gascon—think a lot of her and have endorsed her.

She’s smart, and she knows the state is desperate for some kind of leadership in the arena of criminal justice. Harris aims to provide it.

I say, give her the chance.

PS: One more thing: Cooley, unlike Jerry Brown, has vowed to defend Prop 8 in court. That not only guarantees an appeal, but by putting the considerable resources of the state of California behind the defense of Prop 8. Not okay.


  • Kamala Harris, but, um, It’s complicated.

    What’s complicated about voting a straight Democratic ticket?

  • For the record, ATQ, I’m not looking at AG based on party lines in the least. Right up until the end I was leaning, sentimentally, toward Cooley, because I like him personally. And, in the end, I think he’d be fine too. But when I weighed everything, I think she might be better for the moment. Presuming that Jerry is the governor, I think he’d work well with either one of them.

    But as an LA DA, I much preferred Cooley to Garcetti (the Democrat).

  • I didn’t mean it as a bad thing. What I meant was I couldn’t see how it could be complicated when you’re voting a straight ticket so it seemed pretty automatic that you would vote for Harris over Cooley.

  • You can blame oil companies all you want for their funding but anyone who thinks AB32 isn’t a job kiler hasn’t done their homework. As for Haris, no way she’s a terrible choice. It doesn’t say much for Brown with you thinking he’d work better for her unless you think he’s going to try to pull another Rose Bird out on us. Looks like you’re ok with the type of AG that won’t do their job as compared to one that wil.

  • Progressive groups aren’t against 20, Democrats are. Whatever the commission comes up with, it’s bound to be better that what we have now.

  • Actually, Hillel, I found a lot of progressive groups that are. (Courage Campaign, Calitics, the County Fed, if you count them as progressive, and more) But I quite agree with you, anything is better than what we have now and your writing on the topic is first rate.

    (As I said, I’m for the step process, but I’d be just as happy if it went the other way.)

  • as a former addict (not to pot, why bother) i want to vote yes on this because it won’t turn people into addicts.and it will save money by cutting back on arrests and unnecessary jail time. my concern is that the Feds are going to come in and shut down the legal medical marijuana establishments that we already have, thus potentially denying people who use it for legitimate medical purposes. Also, I am not sure it’s going to change anything with Mexico – the drug of choice is cocaine with the cartels – but it may cause some issues with neighboring states. unless we have the support of neighboring states and the feds, i think this prop, if passed, might do more harm than good. i’m all for legalizing all drugs (and maybe making alcohol illegal since it kills more people than any other addictive substance) but unless we have some guarantee that people who really need medical marijuana aren’t going to be hurt by the feds shutting down their dispensaries, i’m not so sure this is the right time.

  • Baca and other local law enforcement are saying they are going to prosecute med marijuana sales even if the prop passes – but is that really his call? Don’t the Board of Supervisors who are at least nominally his bosses, make that call? When the Feds were busting pot shops that were legal under the L A City Ordinance, city council members insisted they butt out and the city take jurisdiction. WHO is in charge, anyway? For a Sheriff and DA to say they’ll do what they see fit regardless of the law seems like they are making policy, which is not their place.

    I agree with those who say that the cartels are the last ones to favor legalization – they benefit from the black market and fear of arrest. On the other hand, I am not in favor of kids smoking, or the proliferation of shops near schools that was the case before, nor do I want potheads driving on the roads. But driving impaired is illegal anyway, and doesn’t the prop include age restrictions at least as stringent as for alcohol?

    (your comment eater is off again, says this is a duplicate but it’s not, so if it is NOW, sorry…)

  • thank you! thank you! thank you! this makes everything so much easier for me. I will be bringing this printout to the polls, i totally agree with you 😉

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